Archive for February, 2011

Connecticut vs. New Jersey

February 25, 2011

New Jersey’s governor is engaging in a tho’ down. I’m not getting into the political stuff, though our gov has it right on the tax issue. And we win on everything else. Even a state legislator who grew up in N.J. won’t go back. My relatives saw the light almost 150 a years ago when they left “Sour Mountain” and settled in Hartford.

  • Corruption: I’ve already blogged about this topic, but N.J. makes Connecticut look like Snow White.
  • Sports: Geno Auriemma beats C. Vivian Stringer, this year, last year, the year before …
  • Pollution: People arriving in Connecticut don’t smell it first. It doesn’t look like Dante’s Inferno at night. We don’t have a huge plume of toxins about to take out a shoreline area. (See danger to Atlantic City aquifers.)
  • Speaking of AC: The Sun and Foxwoods are far more successful than the slot ghetto.
  • Our beaches don’t have the honky-tonk sleaze of “da Showa” (the shore).
  • Traffic: People signal their turns here (pretty much) and we don’t have hellish traffic circles where people speed up to keep mergers out.
  • State flower: We have the elegant, endangered mountain laurel. New Jersey has the violet, which takes over my lawn every spring and threatens to strangle the other plants in the borders.
  • State flag: We have gorgeous bunches of grapes, greenery, and a slogan that translates “He who is transplanted sustains.” I’m proud to note that the original idea of the seal came from the Saybrook colony. New Jersey has horses heads (“Godfather,” anyone?), plows and a mercenary, “Liberty and prosperity.” May N.J. prosper with its wonderful taxes!
  • State name: We are the Constitution state. New Jersey? Garden state — which is only applies to the bottom half these days.

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

February 24, 2011

I’ve finished the three volume’s of Alexander McCall Smith’s Portuguese Irregular Verb series, about a hapless German philology professor. As regular readers of this blog know, I adore AMS.  Precious Ramotswe’s Ladies Detective Agency, Isabel Dalhousie’s Sunday Philosophers are great company at any time of the day or night, though I don’t recommend them as books to fall asleep by. I generally find myself saying “five minutes more” and realizing it’s after 2 a.m. before I finally close the book.

Professor Doctor (is that Doctor Professor?) Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld is another matter. His misadventures are meant to be humorous but involve Grand Guignol attitude. He involves a friend in a nearly fatal sword duel (Portuguese Irregular Verbs), amputates the legs of a dog (The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs), nearly kills a Colombian military officer (At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances). Von Igelfeld’s self absorption and competition for the itty bitty crumbs of power at his university are no doubt based on truth but just a bit too over the top (or not over the top enough) to engender genuine laughter.  Herr professor travels the world — Italy, the States, India, Colombia, England — but remains in his own little cocoon.

To clear the literary palate, I’m picking up my annual reading of Emma and continuing with The Grace of Silence.

‘Dreaming in English’

February 23, 2011

The computer is still giving me mini-fits, as it goes through phases where it doesn’t want to respond. Nevertheless, I’ll attempt a sensible post just to prove human can overcome machine. Take that, Watson! Also, blame any mistakes on new and different technology.

Michael Erard wrote in the NY Times Book Review (February 6) about dreaming in other languages as an indication that the sounds and concepts,  and the culture, had crossed into the dreamer’s subconscious. Apparently the latest memoir fad is “Dreaming in ___ ” [fill in the blank with the language of choice.] Erard asks why no one writes about dreaming in English and observes that dreamers don’t comment on awakening how fluent they were. Since we don’t normally comment on our own eloquence in writing or speaking when we’re awake, why would we comment on our ability in dreams? If I dreamed about winning a downhill ski race, I might comment on awakening, since I’m too chicken to get on a lift and hence have never skied.

The first problem, I think, is that “speaking” isn’t the right way to describe what happens in dreams. I have conversations in dreams almost every night, but the words don’t arrive as words per se. The whole exchange comes all at once, like diving into a lake instead of going in toes, then a feet, then knees as the exchange of daytime conversation might happen. Of course if I reconstruct the dream afterward, dialogue becomes just that, a statement or question from the other person or people, then a statement from me. For example, last night’s dream involved an exchange with a woman dressed in vestments as if she were about to celebrate Mass in an Episcopal church. I don’t remember that she spoke actual words, but I understood that she wanted to know whether I minded working in my hometown of Old Saybrook. I don’t think I said anything in response but rather moved into the shade of a building and smiled.

I do remember the first time I had a dream in another language. I was speaking French. It must have been in college and I woke up remembering everything that everyone said, which I rarely do. And I was impressed at how fluent I was.

Erard comments that people who talk in their sleep do so in their native languages. I can verify this fact as I had been living in the French language dorm in college where the rule against speaking English was strictly enforced. (I don’t remember the penalties, but we didn’t break the rules.) My roommate said one night I sat up in bed and yelled, “Get off the stage” in English. I was absolved on the basis of incapacity.

Computer Battles

February 22, 2011

Spent most of the day fighting with this rented computer. It’s much newer than mine but so loaded with games, etc., that it crawls along. Also just enough of the keys are in a different place that I’m deleting when I intend to head “home” and backspacing when I intend to page down. It does have a better sound system than mine but I hope I won’t have to experience it too much longer.

Wine Club III

February 20, 2011

This case arrived last spring, so I decided I’d better post my findings before the spring 2011 case arrives. This post was supposed to go up Friday when the computer had the accident that landed it in the hospital.

  • Bighorn Celllars “Broken Rock” Cabernet 2004, was actually the last of the case that I tried. It was less cloying and not as heavy or as sweet as most Napa Cabs but still big and bold. It grew more complex the longer it stayed on the tongue as it began somewhat flat and tangy. It almost smelled better than it tasted, as I smelled the fruit and cedar mentioned in the tasting notes. At 14.8 percent alcohol with a $15 pricetag, I would buy for a gift but not for personal consumption.
  • Ojos Verdes Malbec 2008 from Mendoza, Argentina. This baby needs to breathe. It comes out of the bottle acid, harsh, but it mellows with prolonged contact with oxygen and ended with a plummy finish, after a hint of pepper midway through. As a comparison I opened a Malbec that a neighbor gave me. The Agua de Piedra Reserva Malbec 2010 with less alcohol (13 percent vs. 13.9 for the “green eyes”) was much less fruity. I found no need to aerate this one. Much better. And at $16 per bottle, won’t be drinking it again.
  • Orrando Zinfandel 2007, California. (13.5 percent; $16) I normally love red Zins that have the body and style of Cabs without the cloying inkiness. This one was a bit thinner but equally complex. A hint of pepper added to the mystery, along with a bit of chocolate. But it still doesn’t match the Redwood Old Vine Zins.
  • Lagar Alto Tempranillo 2008 (the notes said 2007, but the bottle said 2007), La Mancha, Spain. At $9 to $12 per bottle, this one was definitely a repeat. I was not as impressed the second time around. The notes call it Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon. It was more complex than the California/ Washington State cabs and a bit sweeter than I like. It also had enough tannin to cut back on the sugar. Also a reasonable 12 percent alcohol.
  • Marmesa Chardonnay 2005, Edna Valley, California. This wine was a revelation as it had a real cork, not plastic. The wine was a bit heavy for a spring drink, filled with honey. It had less oak than many Cali chards. The pretty sunshine yellow may be the best harbinger of spring. A huge 14.2 percent alcohol is way too much for a white, but $10 would make it a gift for picnic.
  • Seadrift Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Sonoma, California) had an initial sparkle, a bit of fizz, followed immediately by that overpowering Welch’s white grape flavor. I’m not a fan of these wines, but this one went OK with the veggie casserole that I made for Thanksgiving. Way overpriced at $15, and 13.5 percent alcohol, high for white.

Brief Hiatus

February 19, 2011

My computer is in the hospital and I’m having fits with the rental, so entries may be a bit spotty for a few days. Will catch up asap.

Migration — Party, Party

February 18, 2011

Monday, October 20, 2008

It seems that my moribund social life has revived. Just looked at the calendar and realized that we’ve had something every weekend for the past three weeks. Then after a one-week break, we’re occupied again until just before Thanksgiving. Then we proceed with birthdays: my mother-in-law, our twin friends, Larry. Then comes Christmas and New Years. I’m scared to look past that.
We started with B.B. King at the end of September. (See “Thrill Still There,” September 29.)
The following weekend we attended a party in memory of Larry’s classmate Hal Levy and went to dinner with another classmate and his wife. (See RIP October 3.)
Then we were away for four days attending a beautiful wedding in hot, wet Savannah.
On Saturday we celebrated Larry’s youngest sister’s birthday. It had a shopping theme to reflect her favorite occupation. Awesome music provided by Henry G. Bentley Jr. who does not seem to have a web site to link to. On Sunday a few of us went for a large, late lunch and this morning I drove the birthday girl and her son to the airport for their return trip.
This coming weekend I think we get a pass.
Then on Halloween, I go to New York to see Babar (see September 10 post) and meet with my agent and the woman who wrote the introduction to my book, Can Anything Beat White?: A Black Family’s Letters. Then on Saturday we go to the Shoreline to meet Larry’s classmate and his wife for dinner.
We go to another birthday party the following weekend. Can’t say any more ’cause it’s a surprise. And that Monday I go to a gala to support the Middlesex County Community Foundation.
That brings us to November 15 when I’m attending a lecture sponsored by the Connecticut Society of Genealogists. That evening we’re supposed to take a trip to one of the casinos (not sure which one) as a fundraiser for a local girls softball team.
Then we get a break, I think. It’ll be a chance to reflect on an expression my mom used, “The social whirl ain’t restful.”

This and That

February 18, 2011

I want to write another “What I’m Reading Now” because I’ve set aside People’s History and picked up Michele Norris’s powerful and beautiful The Grace of Silence of which I’ve already read perhaps a third. But I want to do full justice to it and so will wait for another day.

And so to odds and ends.

  • It is obscene that a reporter, a guest in the country no less, should be beaten and sexually assaulted while she is working. I hope the Egyptians are suitably ashamed, not only because of the assault, but also because Lara Logan’s rescuers were reportedly a group of women.
  • Think about the fact that Egyptian women got the vote before we did in the United States.
  • Borders has filed for bankruptcy. I’ve always preferred Barnes & Noble. The stores are better organized, less cramped, and staffed with folks who know what’s what. I did run over to use my Borders gift cards (that’s how I wound up with People’s History) and found the place almost empty of customers but so overloaded with shelves and kiosks it was difficult to walk around.
  • There is some weird irony that a Colorado congressman showed up on an NPR broadcast to defend defunding NPR. And then denied that his move had anything to do with ideology.
  • A connection must exist between Watson’s “Jeopardy” win and the miniaturization of computer hardware. I’m just not sure what it is, unless it means we will be able to swallow a chip and have Watson’s ability.
  • The contractor I called more than a week ago came by today and took the snow off the roof over the kitchen. The guys have to come back and put on a new roof. Then we need to find someone to repair the hole in the ceiling. In related business, we can see bare ground on the raised bed next to the garage. The rest is still covered and is looking more and more disgusting each day.
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated Middletown, Connecticut as “most romantic main street.” Most people thought the folks at the Trust confused us with some other Middletown, but the photo is of Luce, a restaurant at the corner of Main and Washington streets, which Larry and I love. Here’s the irony: the designation came out the day before demolition started on the building next door because snow had collapsed the roof. Second and worse irony: The building across the street from the restaurant sports a rebel battle flag from the top floor window.

Migration — Georgia on My Mind, Too

February 17, 2011

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In the way the world operates, I returned from Georgia on Monday and on Wednesday picked up a copy of the Hartford Advocate. Glanced at the index and after I noticed that someone had taken Joe Lieberman to task for his hypocrisy (Obama’s inexperience matters; Palin’s doesn’t), I saw an article entitled “Georgia on My Mind.”
I hope Alan Bisbort is right about the “profound shift in American character,” but here’s what I saw and heard while I was in Dixie: blacks and other people of color still occupy the menial jobs while the whites manage the hotels and restaurants. The newspapers and magazines sometimes make an effort to include people of color, but the effort is obvious, and they’re always shown separate from whites. The battle flag waves by the side of the highway more often than the Stars and Stripes. The candidates for secondary political offices are almost all white men. The residents I talked to said Georgia’s still red and likely to remain that way. My interracial in-laws (she’s black, he’s white) upset more than a few guests at the hotel. One woman stared at them in frozen horror, then fled the restaurant before she had finished her breakfast.
On a positive note, downpours while we were there have relieved the short-term drought problems, though the reservoirs are by no means full. The kudzu is still growing, and the crape myrtles look scraggly, but the wildflowers in the highway median are in full bloom. The tap water, however, tastes like sulfur. I’ll take Connecticut chlorine over Georgia sulfur any day.
I’m posting a version of this on the comments section to Alan’s article.

What I’m Reading Now

February 17, 2011

Another in an occasional series. This book is going to require a follow-up entry, but I have to praise Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It really is what the title says, history told from the point of view of the people, not the ruling classes, though Zinn does make extensive use of the writings of Thomas J. et al.

I’ve just finished the chapter “Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom,” a complete refutation of the party line that Abe freed the slaves and that blacks elected at the end of the war were incompetent buffoons. Throughout this work, Zinn makes the best use of primary sources, giving voice to those who have otherwise been lost to history.

The chapter that inspired me the most, however, was “The Intimately Oppressed,” the chapter on women that makes it clear inequality was not always the standard in this country. When everyone farmed to survive, labor was distributed evenly. When the bulk of the population migrated from farm to factory and then to office, women were relegated to second-class status. Their cries for equality come through and resonate as women in other countries struggle to be heard.

BTW. my admiration of the book makes me grateful that that History Is a Weapon has posted the text online. Here’s the justification, which I’m sure the folks at “weapon” won’t mind my repeating:

This great book should really be read by everyone. It is difficult to describe why it so great because it both teaches and inspires. You really just have to read it. We think it is so good that it demands to be as accessible as possible. Once you’ve finished it, we’re sure you’ll agree. In fact, years ago, we would offer people twenty dollars if they read the book and didn’t think it was completely worth their time. Of all the people who took us up on it, no one collected.

The writer in me, though, is going crazy because Howard Zinn’s estate is not benefiting from this rip-off. I hope “weapon” is sending royalties, but I doubt it. This means, they think Professor Zinn should work for free.

Stay tuned for further comment …